Egyptian junta officials are stepping up the rhetoric against ISIS in the wake of yesterday’s high profile attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. With the ISIS affiliate responsible, the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, also lining up against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the two have a common enemy. One would think this would lead to a rapprochement, but it seems just as likely Egypt will attack Hamas in Gaza simply as an easier target.
In comments to media outlets in previous weeks, Israeli officials had insisted Hamas and ISIS were enemies. In the wake of the Egypt attack, apparently keen to support the junta’s narrative, Israeli officials are openly accusing Hamas of having armed and supported ISIS in Sinai.
When Egypt’s military carried out its coup in 2013, they accused the Sinai militants of being in league with the ousted elected government, and both of being in league with Hamas. The narrative never made much sense, and makes even less since Ansar Beit al-Maqdis joined ISIS last year and started fighting against Hamas, but was the initial casus belli for the Egyptian offensive in Sinai, and was never formally dropped from their talking points.
That means they still have the pretense of blaming Hamas for everything ISIS does, and there is some speculation that the junta, since it hasn’t been particularly effective at counterattacks against ISIS, might just attack Gaza because it’s such an easy target.
While it makes sense from Egypt’s narrative, it is also the worst decision they could make, as ISIS has been openly trying to get someone to attack Hamas, figuring it would be Israel, in hopes of weakening them so they could take over. the strip. Egypt could effectively hand the strip to ISIS in trying to make a show of retaliation, and only add to their woes in the area.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has also been an important issue internationally, with fingers historically pointed at Israel and their blockade. If Egypt starts killing Gazans, however, those fingers could quickly be pointed at them for causing suffering in the strip, and add to international resentment already high after the military takeover in Cairo.
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